Letters //

The pains of campaigning

A letter from Bridget Harilaou

Photo by @jowoseph.

Dear Honi,

I am writing in response to Amy Davis’ letter in Wom*n’s Honi last week, called ‘Dear Hack.’ It may not surprise you that as the author of the letter preceding Amy’s, called ‘Dear White Feminist,’ I am a political activist, feminist and hack. I’ve campaigned in the 2013 SRC elections and this year’s Union Board elections, so I’d just like to paint a different picture.

“Hi, how are you today?” “No!” “I’m in a hurry,” “I don’t care!” “GO AWAY.” People literally run away from me when they see me, they avoid eye contact and pull out their phones making fake calls. “Why do you bother campaigning?” “What’s the point?” “You never change anything.” They reject you, they are rude, they are mean, they crumple up your How To Votes in front of you, just because they can. They complain about you to their friends as they walk away. But the worst, the absolute worst, is when they pretend you’re not even there. They ignore you completely. They pretend they cannot hear you. You are not even acknowledged as a human being. You are a ghost.

Now imagine that, every day, for hours on end, for up to three weeks. It’s enough to make people sob, it’s enough to cause breakdowns, it is the only thing that has ever made me feel truly depressed.

Because I am a person, and I do have feelings. I campaign because I care about people, and structural inequality, and using the university as a platform to create change. I care so much, I talk to strangers and get rejected, over and over and over again. I believe the candidates from Grassroots are truly different from all the other factions, because Tom Raue went to court over leaking documents for student safety and Bebe De Souza is running the first Sex and Consent Day at the University of Sydney. There is not a doubt in my mind that Edward McMahon will follow in the same tradition.

If you think people will willingly engage in student politics you don’t know a thing about privilege. Privilege is being able to go through uni you’re entire degree and not fear homelessness when you lose your part-time job. Privilege is never having to think about whether you should buy food or the text books you need for your course. Privilege is never suffering a traumatic experience of violence, and failing all your subjects, because you couldn’t afford to see a counselor or therapist. That is why I campaign.

You are privileged enough to not care about anything or anyone else, because these issues don’t affect you. And it’s because you’re so damn privileged. Meanwhile, those of us who actually give a shit, get dehumanised and laughed at. You don’t have to care about elections and student services because you can, but not everyone has this privilege. That is why I’m passionate about politics. That is why I campaign. I hope that gives you a different perspective on democracy, and elections, and even disgusting political hacks.

Bridget Harilaou, INGS/Law II

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